Monday, November 25, 2013

Music Reviews - Razorcake

The fine folks at Razorcake, a magazine that covers punk culture, made me a reviewer a few months back. Every 60 days or so I get a package in the mail full of records and tapes and CDs. Then I review 'em! I'm new to the genre, so they still feel a bit overwritten: an extra word, an excessive sentence. Right now, I think they are testing the relative searchability of their database and material. I was asked to repost the reviews here as part of a Google-ing experiment.

Jim Joyce – Reviews for issue 77

Squadroom: Cassette  
Stabler’s 10 track “Squadroom” is an 8 minute 10 second pal. To me, Stabler’s Squadroom recalls Black Flag’s loose rush of power, akin to Damaged, minus Greg Ginn’s jazzpunk solos but very much with the rush and crash of a band that only pauses for the bass to dig out a jagged groove or to allow silence until the next track. To compare with something more recent? Maybe Chicago’s Weekend Nachos. Stabler songs like “Torture” and “Self-Disgust” offer uplifting lyrics, encouraging the listener to challenge mediocre shit – to be humbled, to be aware, and to take responsibility for life choices. So the content is there for lyric lovers like me. Sonically, the rapid swipe and chug of these tracks is ideal for smashing chairs to, or for powering through rough spots that Minor Threat tracks like “Seeing Red” and “Filler” just can’t clean. You can grab Squadroom off of Stabler’s Bandcamp (check out the vaguely titled “…preview…” song there, too) or procure a Cassette from their label, Reality is a Cult. –Jim Joyce (Reality Is A Cult, 

So Much Unhappiness So Little Time: CD
Fans of power pop can get behind the Breakup Society’s new release pretty easily. Lead songwriter Ed Masley writes tracks that could’ve been featured on a Left of the Dial Rhino Records compilation for their similarity to ‘80s and early ‘90s alternative rock (think Hoodoo Gurus) that they recall. Despite the crotchety album title, So Much Unhappiness So Little Time is upbeat. These are songs written by someone who’s likely an old hand at crafting hook heavy pop rock, laden with glittery sustained chords alongside sweet and sour garage rock vocals, only maybe the nicer garage of a guy who remembers to cut his lawn. The result reminds me a bit of Superchunk or Spoon in a good way, though the shimmer and omnipresence of Masley’s voice kept me from falling into the songs completely. Not exactly my thing, but plenty to like for fans of power pop to check out.  –Jim Joyce (Get Hip Recordings, 

Basically: CD
The soul of Squirtgun and Digger style pop punk persists on these nine tracks. Tight guitar and drum work with bass playing of the cleverly understated Mike Dirnt variety lifts the group above the waterline for sure. The Challenged might get tired of being compared to the pop punk classics of the 90s, but they flourish within that sound, writing songs that I’d like to hear five tracks at a time, while driving across town by night with streetlamps brushing overhead – thinking about integrity, romance, and ambition, all that stuff. But I don’t have a car. And I’m sitting at a sticky wooden table surrounded by quizzes and paperclips. In sum, Basically is a definite success in the pop punk form: tracks like “Go Fuck Yourself” carry the torch. But I’d like to hear the Challenged reach out and bring their distinct view of the world to the genre, too, like they do on “The Director” where the lyrics are a storyboard to a movie about the song. Which is inventive and cool. More of that, please. –Jim Joyce (Self-released, no address listed)

Split: 7”  
Tonally, Proletar and Analdicktion are a worthy pairing. Jakarta based Proletar has been together since 1999, and they have been featured on more than 20 releases since that time. The band recalls a high-octane reinterpretation of Napalm Death, if the lyrics were addressing imperialism, outsourcing, and politics of the left; pretty cool topic matter to hear from voices outside of the US. Take that intellectual activity with the blizzard of serrated chords and Proletar’s three tracks and make for a fine A-side. On the B-side is Anadicktion, a recently defunct group from Singapore, who are a bit more of an anomaly for me. I’m intrigued by the brutality of the vocals that are so engagingly awry with effects they seem to boil up from the bottom of a swamp (or fly in from outer space on radio waves made of crude oil) but songs like “Fuck Artsy Indie Girl Bullshit” and “Trendy Hipster Castration Bloodbath” seem a bit like caricatures. But the goregrind vocals are so pleasingly spooky that I eagerly sleuthed around for more material. Analdicktion’s 2011 album, Sluts, is well-reviewed, but similarly hard to get down with due to song titles like “Semen Covered Butchered Whores” and “Severed Scene Slut” and from the abundance of rape jokes in a few reviews I checked out in my hunt for more material. I get that the gore misogyny is probably intended to be more goofball than machismo, but the outcome is normalization of creepy misogynistic thinking. Call me Tipper Gore, but it reminds me in part of why even at punk and hardcore shows in 2013, many of my female friends can’t pass a night without being groped or harassed by dudes in the scene, and how DIY, even though it’s implicitly left leaning, can still feel like an angry hetero boy’s club. In sum, this is an EP of rad grindcore sounds but ultimately mixed messages. – Jim Joyce (Suburban White Trash Records,

Reality Is A Cult Records / Nathalie Haurberg, 1693 N. Broad St. Galesburg, IL 61401
Get Hip Inc. 1800 Columbus Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233
Suburban White Trash Records, PO Box 270594, Fort Collins CO